ANGRY traders at Kirkgate Market have slammed plans to increase their rent amid claims they have suffered a 90 per cent drop in trade due to redevelopment work.
Leeds City Council offered a 20 per cent rent reduction last year to mitigate the effect of the £13.7m refurbishment of the historic site, and extended the offer until March 31.
Traders have voiced concerns that the disruption has significantly affected footfall and sales – by up to 90 per cent in some cases, with others claiming they are thousands of pounds in debt and relying on their pensions to get by.
But now the rent reduction scheme has come to an end, the council is demanding full rent payment despite the first phase of work continuing until the end of the month.
Trader Martin Scholnick, who has worked at the market since he was a young boy, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “My savings have gone. I’ve been borrowing off the wife and the children to keep it going.
“We are suffering. We are getting no trade and they are wanting us to pay full price rent. It is a joke.”
Just weeks after it was named Britain’s favourite market, traders are fighting to keep their businesses alive.
Stall holders claim the once bustling shopping destination is now a ‘dying market’ as their rent rockets back up.
Yesterday the rent reduction scheme came to an end, leaving many traders fearing the end may be in sight for their businesses.
Steven Mathers is a trader and member of the market’s management board. He said: “It’s in dire straits. We’ve been hit a lot worse than expected.
“A lot of people are surviving because the rents have been put down. If they put them back up, a lot of stalls will close down.”
Mr Mathers’s family has run a fruit stall for 80 years. He added: “All of these stalls have been handed down through families, and we will hand it down to our children.
“It’s the history of the market itself.”
One stall owner, who did not want to be named, said: “My takings have fallen by 90 per cent. It is very difficult.
“I haven’t had a wage since last January.
“I’ve had to use my pension to be able to carry on.
“It’s logical not to put the rents up until the building work is finished.
“It will take a good year for us to recover from this.”
Another trader said: “We are ruined. I’ve lost about £30,000. I’m in so much debt.”
Another trader, who wanted to remain anonymous, added: “Leeds market is a dying market.”
Speaking about the rent reduction scheme, a spokesman for Leeds City Council said: “As part of the multi-million pound refurbishment being undertaken by the council, which when completed will include an exciting fresh produce and covered daily market area and events space, we offered traders last year a 20 per cent reduction to their rents to help minimise the impact of any disruption.
“This rent reduction was subsequently extended in October 2015 until the end of the financial year.
“The council remains absolutely committed to working closely with businesses in the market, and any traders with questions or concerns, are asked to contact the markets management team.”
He added: “Discussions are ongoing about what further support could potentially be provided to traders.”